What I Learned As a Social Media Panelist at An Association Workshop

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRdude)

Professional workshops and seminars are great opportunities to learn and advance — but only if you apply yourself and get something out of them.  The public relations profession, of course, continues to evolve and more than likely will do so for a long time.

That’s why I was thrilled and honored to be invited to serve on a panel last Thursday as part of a one-day program called “The Business of Association Publishing.”  It was hosted by the nice people at Association Media and Publishing, a Washington, D.C. area organization that serves the publishing needs of those of us who work in the association management business.

(In case you forgot or are a first-time visitor to The PRDude’s blog, I pay the mortgage, put food on the table and treat myself to good beer once in a while as Director of Marketing & Communications for a real estate association here in Chicago.  I know, enjoy and appreciate the value of associations.  And, I’m a proud member of one myself: The Public Relations Society of America. )

The topic for our panel was: “Social Media for Associations: How To Engage Your Members Using the Latest Technologies.”  “Social media!  I could talk about that,” I said to myself after I received the invitation.  “And, I actually could provide something of value.”

The PRDude After the Panel Discussion.

But what to focus on?  Well, how about blogging?  Along with this blog, I’m administrator and contributor to our organization’s blog, which launched this June.

My co-presenters were two outstanding professionals who deliver tremendous insight from within their respective organizations and areas of expertise.

  • Jean Lynch, Director of Communications and Marketing for the American Association of Medical Assistants, offered some keen insight into how the AAMA strategically incorporated Facebook into its marketing and communications programs with solid, measurable results.
  • And, Andy Steggles, COO and social strategist, Higher Logic (a mobile software company for associations and  nonprofits) delved into  how to leverage mobile (like apps and QR codes)  to drive engagement in traditional media and enhance programmatic offerings and benefits.

And, now the takeaways.  I learned a lot, of course, from my two colleagues and their presentations, and through questions from those in attendance.  But as a public relations and business communicator who works in association management, I came away with the following additional insight:

1.  One Size Does Not Fit All. Associations are local and regional, national and international.  They cover every imaginable industry and then some. The social media strategy for Association A will not — and should not — be translate to Association B.   Like the for-profit sector, associations should craft and incorporate a social media strategy that will help them reach realistic, measurable goals.

2.  Miles and Miles to Go.  This is a somewhat unsubstantiated observation, but I believe the majority of associations — perhaps a large majority of them — have yet to fully understand the value of social media and wrap both arms around it.   Why? Perhaps it’s time, dollars,  a reluctance from leadership or all of these and other factors.  Perhaps it’s the nature of the beast:  Some associations are driven by members who won’t embrace change, or social media for that matter.

Do you have thoughts to share on the use of social media as part of an overall association communications strategy?  Do you have a good case history to share?  Please let me know.